UConn men’s hockey dropped its fifth consecutive contest on Thursday, falling 3-1 to No. 10 Providence at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
“I think since we’ve come back from break we’ve been a flat hockey club,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “I don’t think that was the case tonight.”
Alexander Payusov scored the Huskies’ lone goal. Defensively, goaltender Adam Huska was out due to a wrist injury so Tanner Creel took his place in net. In limited action, Creel had shown a penchant for giving up goals and, despite an encouraging beginning to the game from the line of Corey Ronan, Jesse Schwartz, and Jeff Wight, did so again in the first period, as Providence jumped out to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Josh Wilkins scored the first two goals, opening the scoring within the first four minutes on a pass from behind the goal line. He scored again on the power play 2:02 later. Creel allowed a juicy rebound on a shot from Ben Miraegas and the sophomore forward cleaned up the mess.
“I was worried after those first two went in because it started like his other two games,” Cavanaugh said. “He showed a lot of mental toughness.”
Providence got one more in the final two minutes of the opening period. Shane Kavanaugh left the puck just outside the left post when he fell down on a net drive and Vimal Sukumaran followed behind to get the goal.
UConn had its own chances, including an Alexander Payusov breakaway in the later stages of the period, but Friars goalie Hayden Hawkey was up to the task on all nine Husky shots.
“We had trouble getting it past Hawkey tonight,” Cavanaugh said. “But tonight we were able to get a lot of pucks to the net.”
UConn played better in the middle 20 minutes and even outplayed the No. 10 team in the country, but the team simply could not solve the Friars’ goaltender. The Huskies have scored just two goals in their last 14 periods.
Shots were 10-to-7 Huskies and the home team had some of their best offensive play since Dec. 9’s win over then-No. 16 Colgate, but nothing to show for it until early in the third period when Payusov collected a puck in the neutral zone and had space on the right side, eventually scoring on a wraparound.
UConn had 16:14 to try to get two goals to tie it and it seemed like the Huskies had a chance. The goal buoyed their spirits and a Tommy Davis penalty put the Huskies on the power play.
However, Providence was able to kill it off as the Friars did for all four of UConn’s power-play attempts and when Creel’s vacated the net with 1:08 to go.
UConn (8-16-2, 5-11-1) returns to the ice on Saturday against these same Friars. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. at Schneider Arena in Providence, Rhode Island.